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May 10, 2017

Minutemen drop fifth straight to visiting Huskies

26 runs, 34 hits and nine home runs.

The Massachusetts baseball team hoped it could be on the better end of both teams’ offensive outbursts, but instead, the Minutemen fell to Connecticut, 15-11 in the final game of a home-and-home Wednesday afternoon.

After Minuteman pitcher Isaac Oakley surrendered a first inning run, UMass (2-16, 1-7 Atlantic 10) responded quickly in the bottom half with four runs, all coming from home runs at Earl Lorden Field.

Junior Eric Fredette sparked the rally with a solo home run, which was the first of two on the day. Shortstop Matt Gedman then followed suit, going back-to-back with Fredette, giving UMass a 2-1 lead. Right fielder Mike Donato then drew a walk and was promptly driven in by center fielder Brian Baudinet’s two run blast.

UConn (19-7, 5-2 Big East) scored three runs to tie the game at four heading into the bottom of the third, but UMass responded with one run in the third before Oakley pitched a scoreless fourth.

The Minutemen established some breathing room in the bottom of the fourth, when a lengthy rally provided five runs on six hits and one error.

The 10-4 lead wasn’t safe for more than a few minutes, though, as UConn rallied in the top of the fifth with four runs. Oakley was relieved by Ben Hart after an error by Matt Gedman and a single that followed. Oakley pitched four innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits. Hart could not get out of the jam, as he surrendered two hits and two runs. The Huskies’ rally finally ended on two dazzling defensive plays by Peter Copa at third and Matt Gedman at shortstop. The damage was done, though, as UConn’s effort made it 10-9.

“We thought we were in pretty good shape up 10-4,” UMass coach Mike Stone said. “But it obviously didn’t work out that way.”

UMass then scored its eleventh and final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth on Eric Fredette’s second solo shot.

“We’ve learned that we can never sit back on our heels,” Fredette said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t score any more runs after the fifth – sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”

UMass pitcher Brian Leigh threw a scoreless sixth inning, but then got tagged for four runs in the seventh, when UConn’s Mike Olt hit what became the game-deciding three-run home run to left center field.

“It was a great hitter’s day and they out-hit us,” Stone said. “I was impressed with their ball club yesterday and then today; they just kept coming at us offensively. They showed quality hitting throughout their whole lineup.”

UMass’ bright spots included Jared Freni, who closed out the game with 1.2 scoreless innings and Fredette, who continues to impress after transferring from Vermont. Fredette finished the game 3-for-5 with two runs and three runs batted in. The Minutemen will continue to rely on him batting second in the lineup when their upcoming series at home against conference rival Richmond (14-13, 2-4 A 10) begins on Friday.

“This is a conference series, and it would be a good time to get some wins on the board,” Fredette said. “Hopefully it will spark something better for the future.”

Stone also recognizes the importance of this series, as he anticipates Nick Serino, Mike Gedman and Bryan Leigh will start each game.

“[It’s] really important,” Stone said. “We have to turn things around here. It is [an] A-10 weekend, and we’re playing at home, so hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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